Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, prohibits displaying any election matter by means, inter alia, of television or similar apparatus, during the period of 48 hours before the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in a constituency. The relevant portions of the said Section 126 are re-produced below:-
[126. Prohibition of public meetings during period of forty-eight hours ending with hour fixed for conclusion of poll-
(1) No person shall –
(b) Display to the public any election matter by means of cinematograph, television or other similar apparatus;
In any polling area during the period of forty-eight hours ending with the hour fixed for the conclusion of the poll for any election in the polling area.
(2) Any person who contravenes the provisions of sub-section(1) shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
(3) In this Section, the expression “election matter” means any matter intended or calculated to influence or affect the result of an election.]
2. During elections, there are sometimes allegations of violation of the provisions of the above Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 by TV channels in the telecast of their panel discussions/debates and other news and current affairs programmes. The Commission has clarified in the past that the said Section 126 prohibits displaying any election matter by means, inter alia, of television or similar apparatus, during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in a constituency. “Election matter” has been defined in that Section as any matter intended or calculated to influence or affect the result of an election. Violation of the aforesaid provisions of Section 126 is punishable with imprisonment upto a period of two years, or with fine or both.
3. The Commission has also clarified that while telecasting/broadcasting programmes like debate/panel discussions, current affairs programmes etc., it should be ensured that these do not violate the provisions of Section 126, and that programmes involving candidates and leaders of political parties including interviewing or projecting any candidate or political party or its leaders not be telecast/broadcast during the prohibited period of 48 hours mentioned in Section 126.
4. The Commission once again reiterates that the TV/Radio channels and cable networks should ensure that the contents of programmes telecast/broadcast /displayed by them during the period of 48 hours referred to in Section 126 do not contain any material, including views/appeals by panelists/participants that may be construed as promoting/ prejudicing the prospect of any particular party or candidate(s) or influencing/affecting the result of the election.